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Jerry Lee Lewis

Rock & Roll Time – 2014 (Vanguard)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Jerry Lee Lewis

One of the seminal figures in the development - some would say, the assault - of early rock 'n' roll, Jerry Lewis always possessed pure country credence as well. His initial outings mined the full spectrum of his rural Louisiana roots, bringing them to bear in a daring, often outrageous display of unrepentant madness and machismo that rivalled Little Richard and even Elvis himself in terms of sheer bravado.

Consequently, it's a credit to Lewis' sheer tenacity that as he closes in on his 80th birthday, the inner flame of the man once dubbed "The Killer" shows no sign of fading anytime soon. While "Rock & Roll Time" seems a bit too obvious a title for anything bearing his imprint, the new album does stay true to his tenacious attitude even while showing obvious reverence for his roots.

That results in a series of obvious choices - a couple of Chuck Berry covers via "Little Queenie" and "Promised Land," an equally expressive representation of stir-fried country in the southern sway of "Keep Me in Mind" and a terrific take on "Folsom Prison Blues" and no small nod to the blues, as expressed through the well worn staple "Bright Lights, Big City" and an obscure Bob Dylan throwaway "Stepchild." It's the usual musical mix, of course, but with Lewis' vocals still as strong and unwavering as ever - and a terrific support cast that includes Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Jim Keltner, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren and Greg Leisz - none of it seems a stretch, even at his age.

Those who haven't checked out The Killer in a while will be pleased to find he's still going about his business with the same heads down determination as ever. After all, a true rocker never changes his stripes. In the case of Mr. Lewis, it's a matter of merely broadening the designs.